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Suman Seth

Associate Professor

Morrill Hall, Room 321

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., History/History of Science, Princeton University
  • M.A., General Studies, Princeton University
  • B.Sc., Physics, University of Sydney



Professor Suman Seth works on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of science and medicine. His interests include the history of medicine, race, and colonialism, the physical sciences (particularly quantum theory), & gender and science. He is the author of Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and Locality in the Eighteenth-Century British Empire, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, and Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926 (MIT, 2010). He has served as the guest editor of a special issue of the journal Postcolonial Studies on “Science, Colonialism, Postcolonialism” (December, 2009) and of a ‘Focus’ Section of the Journal Isis on ‘Re-Locating Race.’ He is co-editor (with Prof. Patrick McCray) of the Journal Osiris and jointly leads (with Prof. Laura Stark) a working group on “History and Theory” as part of the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine.


  • History
  • Science and Technology Studies

Graduate Fields

  • Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
  • History
  • Science and Technology Studies


Professor Seth’s current research looks at the history of medicine, race, and colonialism in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British Empire, with particular emphasis on the history of ‘seasoning,’ or, as it came to be known in the nineteenth century, ‘acclimation’ or ‘acclimatisation.’



  • Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and Locality in the Eighteenth-Century British Empire (Cambridge: University Press, forthcoming)
  • “Colonial History and Postcolonial Science Studies,” Radical History Review, 2017.
  • “Darwin and the Ethnologists: Liberal Racialism and the Geological Analogy,” HSNS 46 (2016): 490-527.
  • “La granja en L’Encero: Alexander von Humboldt y el problema de la adaptación (seasoning)” in Estética y poder en la ciencia y la tecnología: acercamientos multidisciplinarios Steffan Igor Ayora    Diaz & Gabriela Vargas Cetina (editores) (Mérida, Yucatán, México: Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, 2014): 159-89. [Trans. Angélica Márquez-Osuna, Pablo Sepúlveda-Díaz]
  • “Introduction: Re-Locating Race,” Isis 105 (4): 759-763.
2014c: “Materialism, Slavery, and The History of Jamaica,” Isis 105 (2014): 764- 772.
  • “Quantum Physics,” in Jed Z. Buchwald and Robert Fox, The Oxford Handbook for the History of Physics (Oxford: University Press, 2013): 814-59
  • Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.
  • Science, Colonialism, Postcolonialism(ed), Special Issue of Postcolonial Studies 12(4) (December, 2009).
  • "Forman at Forty: New Perspectives on 'Weimar Culture and Quantum Mechanics.'" Essay Review of Cathryn Carson, Alexei Kojevnikov, and Helmut Trischler (eds): Weimar culture and quantum mechanics: Selected Papers by Paul Forman and Contemporary Perspectives on the Forman Thesis. Metascience 22 (2): 1-8 (2013).
  • "The History of Physics After the Cultural Turn," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, (2011) 41(1): 112-122.
  • "Putting Knowledge in its Place: Science, Colonialism, and the Postcolonial," Postcolonial Studies (2009) 12(4): 373-388.
  • "Zweideutigkeit about 'Zweideutigkeit': Sommerfeld, Pauli, and the Methodological Origins of Quantum Mechanics," Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (2009) 40(3): 303-315.
  • "Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Older Quantum Theory," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (2008) 39: 335-348.
  • "Mystik and Technik: Arnold Sommerfeld and Early-Weimar Quantum Theory," Berichte zue Wissenschaftsgeschichte (2008) (31): 331-352.
  • "Crisis and the Construction of Modern Theoretical Physics," British Journal for the History of Science.  (2007) 40(1): pp. 25-51.
  • "Allgemeine Physik? Max Planck und die Gemeinschaft der theoretischen Physik," in Michael Hagner and Manfred Laublichler (eds.), Der Hochsitz des Wissens: Das Allgemeine als wissenschaftlicher Wert.  Berlin: Diaphanes Verlag: (2006) 151-184.
  • "Response to Shaul Katzir: On the Electromagnetic World-View," Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences.  (2005) 36(1): 193-196.